Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fastcase Should Fastrack to Advance Sheets 2.0

There are two things that surprised me about the Fastcase release of advance sheets which was announced last week.

1. Faster to the ebook market. Once again  Fastcase has leapfrogged over many well established legal publishers by jumping into the eBook market. Last year at AALL, only the two largest  legal publishers LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters, were demo-ing products or prototypes. I understand the appeal of eBooks as opposed to  a digital caselaw display. eBooks provide a more appealing and book like display and user experience and also include the ability to search and highlight. 

2. But why would they pick advance sheets? Young lawyers can't  tell an "advance sheet" from a "racing sheet." Older  lawyers who still read them  are likely on the verge of retirement. There are more efficient and targeted ways to monitor emerging caselaw. It is estimated that US state and federal courts release 60,000 reported opinions  and another 100,000 orders and unpublished opinions each year. No one can read everything.

The Fastcase US Supreme Court Advance Sheet  does make sense because it is by definition a highly specialized publication for a court which releases the very readable 70-80 opinions a year.

My reaction to the jurisdictional advance sheets was "just because you can, doesn't mean you should..." Online topical monitoring of newly released caselaw is  vastly more efficient than paging through an advance sheet. But if you are going to publish advance sheets as eBooks, I had to ask "why can't we have the best of both worlds?"

So I contacted Fastcase CEO, Ed Walters to get some answers.

 Why Not Personalized Advance Sheets? I realize that in the 19th century advance sheets represented a revolution in access to caselaw, but now that courts are releasing a tidal wave of opinions and orders, lawyers can't read all the caselaw in a single jurisdiction.  Since most online services have the capacity to monitor and filter caselaw as it is released I asked Ed Walters if he planned to develop a more customized and personalized delivery system for advance sheets. Fastcase has already added case highlights and annotations, so why not take it to the next level of personalization?

Topical Advance Sheets  In response to my inquiry, Ed disclosed that in fact Fastcase is  planning to release several other eBook series this summer, which will include nationwide federal topical compilations – the Antitrust Reporter,  Securities Reporter, FCC Reporter, and Copyright Reporter. While topical isn't truly personalized it is a big leap in the direction of providing filtering and focus which are so badly needed as lawyers struggle against "caselaw overload."  The topical advance sheets  will be paid eBooks. Ed expects these to be even more popular that the free general advance sheets which were released last week..

Still Walter's believes that introducing the advance sheet as an eBook is the first step towards revolution. "One of the exciting things about designing out at the frontier is that nobody knows how people will use the products. Henry Ford famously quipped that if you asked people in the 19th Century what they wanted, they would say they wanted a faster horse. Nobody thinks we’ll be working primarily in print books and advance sheets 20 years from now, especially for primary law. So we’re going to build smarter advance sheets, smarter reporters, and begin to stock the library shelves of tomorrow. I imagine that this is what John B. West felt like in the late 1800s. It’s pretty exciting!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Shake Up at Dow Jones! Can a Shake Up in Law Firm Access to the Wall Steet Journal and Factiva Be Far Behind?

Today Dow Jones released a routine "snooze" of a press release on executive changes. A roster of names I had never heard before  were appointed to key positions reporting to CEO Lex Fenwick . Toward the bottom of the list there was a name familiar to the legal community.

"Dan Hayter has been named head of institutional sales, Americas, for Dow Jones, responsible for leading enterprise sales and new business opportunities for corporate and financial markets products, including Factiva.". Emphasis added. Less than a month ago, Dan was spearheading Bloomberg Law enterprise sales to large law firms around the US. What makes this even more intriguing is that Lex Fenwick is a former Bloomberg CEO.

Key quotes from the Press Release: (emphasis added below is my own)

Lex Fenwick: "Dow Jones has served as a trusted resource with world-class assets for more than a century,” “The dynamism and hunger of our employees around the world to win bode very well for our future. Together with ambitious investment and renewed focus, we look forward to introducing unique new products in the very near future.”

Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, “Our investment plans for The Wall Street Journal newspaper will become clearer in coming days, and we will certainly be expanding our news network globally, on other platforms and in other languages

Alisa Bowen, currently general manager of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network (WSJDN), has been promoted to head of product for Dow Jones. In this role, she will oversee the company’s continued innovation with an integrated product group comprising both consumer and enterprise businesses. "We have a unique opportunity to ... expand our reach into new markets, new products and over new platforms."

A little history Dow Jones vs Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg whooped the tail of Dow Jones' when he leapfrogged over the Telerate "ticker" product and introduced the Bloomberg financial terminal. "The terminal" was an interactive tool that made Wall Street traders smarter by giving them not only data and but a tool for analyzing f the data.

A Little History: WSJ and Factiva in the Legal Market

Back in the day of 300 baud modems and acoustic couplers, there were no full text digital news products. The New York Times has it's Infobank, which included abstracts but no full stories. Dow Jones released a remarkable news product Dow Jones Interactive which made heroes of librarians who could search "full text" news stories and mine for historical stock quotes using arcane commands that read like Fortran code.  DJIS was replaced in 1999 by Factiva a joint venture between Dow Jones and Reuters.

Factiva was, and probably still is a wonderfully sophisticated  research platform. Its complex taxonomy allowed highly precise and sophisticated searching and alerting. For many years law librarians had the best of both worlds they could have a Factiva account for their advanced search needs and the Wall Street Journal in full text was available directly to lawyers through Westlaw. Westlaw held an exclusive contract for WSJ and Factiva until 2005 when Factiva entered into an exclusive deal with Lexis. This is the reason I can't comment on Factiva in 2012… I have been barred, the entire community of law librarians, the entire legal profession... have all been barred from accessing the Factiva platform since 2005.

I attended a launch event in which Clare Hart, President and CEO of Factiva and several Lexis executives assured the law library community that all of the Factiva functionality would be available on Lexis. The content was all there - the functionality was not.

Unprecedented Restrictions and Impaired Research

The Lexis - Factiva deal had a much more draconian impact on law firm research than the prior Westlaw exclusive. Not only was the Wall Street Journal and Factiva content pulled from Westlaw, but all other avenues of access to Factiva were also cut off. Law firms were barred from getting everything from an enterprise contract for the Wall Street Journal Online to a handful of Factiva accounts for the research staff.  If you are not a Lexis subscriber there is no easy way to conduct archival news research in the Wall Street Journal. Pieces of the WSJ and Factiva  archive must be searched on 3 different platforms, but if you are a lawyer or a law firm employee you are not a"permitted user" for any of these products. While all the world evolves toward efficiency - Factiva has devolved into fragments. Did Factiva lose interest in the product because it was so heavily subsidized by the Lexis deal?

The fact is that "Factiva on Lexis" never provided an adequate substitute for native Factiva. Librarians are the researchers of last resort in a law firm. They get the nasty complex requests which have driven the average lawyer to despair. Librarians are not charged with getting "something" on a topic. they have to get an exact thing. Sometimes the deep faceted geographic and corporate taxonomies uncover precise results that can not easily be surfaced from a news dump. Factiva taxonomies uncover relationships not just keywords.

Just Plain Wrong. I just think there is something wrong with any deal that restricts any profession or group of people from making their own choices about what tools and resources they can access. It seems especially pernicious that access to news, the very centerpiece of the First Amendment can be denied to lawyers-- the professionals who are responsible for the effective administration of justice, and protection of First Amendment rights!

The Next Chapter Should Be Interesting

Today's press release includes numerous references to "driving new products and new platforms to enterprise clients." Will CEO Lex Fenwick, steer Dow Jones toward a more Bloomberg-like model and sell their proprietary content and platforms directly to law firms. Will they let Lexis. Westlaw and Bloomberg engage in a bidding war to gain an exclusvive contract or will they take a new direction and sell content to all three vendors?

Let's hope that the executives at Dow Jones renew their interest in serving the legal community directly. If they want to provide their content through Lexis,ThomsonReuters or Bloomberg, fine! But let us have an end to the type of "restrictive covenant" that has essentially deprived the legal profession of unfettered access to news content on the platform of their choice.

Related posts: Welcome to Bloomberg Law: No Deals No Discounts No Apology
No Soup for You: Are Legal Publishers Using a Seinfeld Episode as a Business Strategy?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Climbing the Value Ladder: Rethinking the Law Library on the Road to 2020" Discussed by Jordan Furlong Keynote Speaker at PLL Summit

Joan Axelroth of Axelroth & Associates and I  will be co-chairing the 3rd Annual Private Law Library Summit: The Path to 2020: A Vision for Change, on Saturday, July 21, 2012, Boston, MA. Link here to see the full Summit Agenda.

Jordan Furlong
Our keynote Speaker is Jordan Furlong who will address "Climbing the Value Ladder: Rethinking the Law Library on the Road to 2020."
Jordan  is a lawyer, speaker, and consultant based in Ottawa, Canada. He is a partner with the global consulting firm Edge International and a senior consultant with legal web development company Stem Legal Web Enterprises. Jordan’s website Law21 is subtitled: “dispatches from
a legal profession on the brink.”

His presentation will focus on how librarians can respond to, and leverage , the extraordinary changes in the legal marketplace. Jordan will provide insights into recent market events such as the collapse of Dewey and LeBoeuf and identify emerging trends in the legal marketplace which will shape our roles tomorrow.

I recently had a chance to pose a few questions to Jordan in anticipation of the PLL Summit.

1. What do you see as the greatest threat to private law firm librarian and knowledge professionals?

JF – Law firms are figuring out that they need to do a much better job of managing everything about their business. That includes people and projects, but it mostly concerns costs. Revenue growth has slowed or stalled, so costs need to come down as well, in order to preserve partner profit. That's all fine, as far as it goes. The problem is that lawyers tend to shrink or cut anything whose function or value they don’t really understand. So if your lawyers don't clearly understand the work or perceive the value of your library professionals, you've got cause for concern. You need to find ways to move at least some of your efforts from the "cost" to the "revenue" side of the ledger.

2. What sorts of concerns do law librarians now face in law firms?

JF – There's a growing (and dangerous) perception in some firms that "Lawyers can do their own research," or "We don't need to pay people to look up cases." If that's how your people are viewed, you need to immediately change the narrative. You have to re-frame your department as an indispensable provider of higher-value service. Everyone in the legal market is being forced to climb one or two rungs higher on the value ladder. Lawyers are having to expand beyond their traditional process and content production functions. Equally, librarians need to expand (and need to be seen expanding) beyond their traditional research and knowledge support functions.

3. So how can librarians adjust their mission to enhance their value to law films?

JF – I tell lawyers that they can start climbing their own value ladder by figuring out which basic tasks they can delegate, unbundle, outsource or automate; what's left over are the higher-end services that clients are willing to pay for. The same goes for law librarians: use databases, software and templates to replace some of your knowledge work, and train lawyers to do some of their own research work. Once you've helped firms to improve their internal processes and apply their lawyers' knowledge more effectively, you can start upgrading your own functions and raising your own value. I'll describe some of these strategies during my keynote at the Summit.

Read more of  Jordan’s thought provoking ideas at: Law21

The PLL Summit costs $145. This fee includes a reception Friday night, continental breakfast and a  lunch where you can network with colleagues/ thought leaders as well as day full of exciting programming. Register here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Next Generation of Legal Research Platforms Survey: Call for Academic, Government/Court and Private Law Library Participation

Academic, Government/Court, Private Firm and Corporate law libraries are invited to participate in a survey about  their  organizations adoption of LexisAdvance,Westlaw Next and Bloomberg Law for the upcoming AALL program
The New Generation of Legal Research Databases
on July 22, 2012 in Boston.

The Deadline for the survey has been extended to June 30th.

Here are links to the three surveys:
The program is a follow up to the lively discussion  about the strengths and weaknesses of these new platforms which was held at AALL in Philadelphia. The survey results will be discussed at the program. in July.  All three vendors have agreed to have representatives including product developers at the program in Boston.

One Survey Per Institution We are requesting that the Director of each library designate one person to respond to the survey.

Survey Results will be reported here after the AALL presentation.

Related Posts: Next Generation Legal Research Databases: Private Firm Survey

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bloomberg Blinks On Pricing: New Lower Pricing Schedule Hits the Market

Bloomberg  Law entered the legal information market striding to a different drumbeat, and they continue to be delightfully contrarian. First they shunned  the traditional cost recovery model for online research,  then they added a raft of BNA content at no additional cost to subscribers. Last week they quietly retreated from their debut pricing plan.

When was the last time a vendor sent you a letter advising you that they had just lowered your contract price? In unison we shout "never!" This is something that I think we can file in the "when hell freezes over" drawer.

And yet.... that exact thing happened last week Bloomberg Law subscribers  were advised that Bloomberg Law had lowered the contract price for years three through five in  previously executed multi-year contracts. True to their "everyone gets the same deal" philosophy, law firms which are currently in negotiation will be receiving the revised pricing schedule as well.

Although Bloomberg is famous for their inflexible approach to standard pricing (everyone pays the same per attorney price), at least they can be counted on to be flexible in response to market demands. And more importantly everyone gets the benefit of the new pricing model  - even those to  whom Bloomberg has
 no legal obligation to offer a price reduction.

Related Posts:

Welcome to Bloomberg Law No Deals No Discounts No Apology
Welcome to MORE: On Bloomberg Law. BNA Debuts on the Blaw Platform

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fastcase Driving the Pace of Pocket Research Power: Releases First Android Research App

First it was iPad, and iPhones, then it was cloud printing. Tomorrow it's the Droid.  Fastcase runs to it's own drumbeat away from the mainstream research providers. As the big three legal providers (Lexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg Law)  harden their digital bulwarks against free or low cost access, Fastcase keeps opening new avenues to free research. Tomorrow their free app allowing free caselaw and Statutory  research will be available on yet another platform for Android phones.

On Friday,Ed Walters  The CEO of Fastcase allowed me to have a demo of their new Droid research app.  Ed expects  downloads of  Droid app to exceed the 10,000 first week downloads for the iPhone app.
The timing is even more interesting because of the recent market events which are putting the future of Blackberry maker Research in Motion in doubt. Until recently Blackberry had a clear lock on the law firm market. This morning there were numerous stories that RIM may have entered a death spiral.  If RIM does collapse,the law firm smart phone market will be up for "grabs" and new users may flood into the iPhone and Droid markets.

What I like about the Fastcase App

Registration is required to download the app but the app is free. You get access to 50 state and federal case law which can be searched using keyword or natural language. You can limit searches by jurisdiction and by date. Statutes also cover federal and all 50 state jurisdictions and can be browsed or searched.
It is easy to download and easy to use. It includes their citation analysis tool. You can beat the FREE price! It is great for checking cases and statutes on the run and can be synched with your desktop if you are a full subscriber.

The app does not include Fastcase's sophisticated graphical analysis tools and timelines. But let's face it they need to hold something back for their subscribers.
Even More Intriguing...

During the call Ed let slip that Fastcase will be expanding into some completely new product areas in the coming months. I am sworn to silence for now....Stay tuned...

From the Fastcase Press Release:

About "Fastcase for Android"

This app has all of the features of the award-winning Fastcase for the iPhone app:

Smart search technology from Fastcase's fully-featured Web-based legal research platform

Sorting: users can sort the most relevant results to the top of the list, and customize and re-sort search results

Citation: integrated citation analysis tools built in to the results list

Cost: Free to download, and free access to the nationwide state and federal library without a Fastcase desktop subscription.

Mobile Sync: Seamless integration of Fastcase mobile and desktop accounts - including firm subscribers and bar association members who access the desktop version as a member benefit. Allows printing from the mobile device, or taking desktop results on the road or to court.

Works for both Android phones and tablets.

About Fastcase and the Mobile Marketplace

According to the American Bar Association (ABA) 2011 Technology Survey, the award-winning Fastcase mobile apps are the “most-often mentioned product names for downloaded legal-specific smart phone apps” and account for more users in the legal-specific mobile marketplace (25%) than industry leaders Lexis (9%) and Westlaw (11%) combined.

Fastcase’s free apps for iPhone and iPad have dominated the mobile marketplace, winning the prestigious 2010 New Product of the Year and the 2011 Legal Productivity App of the Year awards from the American Association of Law Libraries.

Fastcase has more than 500,000 paid subscribers, partners with 22 state bar associations and numerous voluntary bars and law schools across the country.

Related posts: Fastcase: Legal Research Enters the 4th Dimension or The Little Engine that Could

Friday, June 1, 2012

Deconstructing Dewey's Debt: In Search of the Missing Variables

 There have been some wild extrapolations of late on some of my favorite blogs regarding the meaning of  Dewey & LeBoeuf's  unsecured "legal research" related  debts as listed in the firm's bankruptcy filing.

 These debts are listed as follows: Thomson Reuters (owed $2.3 million), LexisNexis (owed $1.4 million.), and Wolters Kluwer/CCH (owed $650K.).

In search of the missing variables

I am no math genius but I have managed large law firm   information resource budgets  long enough to know that you can't conclude anything about the debts listed in the filing unless you define a few more variables.This kind of competitive analysis demands more scrutiny and even  more facts. Some of the facts are unknowable at this point. But a competitive intelligence approach suggests that we conduct a "gap analysis" to define what we don't know.

Defining the Debt

The Dewey bankruptcy filing defines the amounts above as being related to "research services." The publishers are named but the the products.

The amounts listed  in the bankruptcy filing are meaningless without additional parameters. Some have jumped to the wild and unsupported conclusion that the debts in the bankruptcy filing  represent the annual flat contract amount for the Lexis and Westlaw online research products.

What Are the Missing Variables in the Equation?

1. Law firms don't pay their Lexis and Westlaw bills once a year. The normal practice is for a firm to make a monthly payment. So the missing variable here is - how many months of Lexis or Westlaw payments were calculated into the total? How many months of payments were considered in default on the date of the bankruptcy?  Were there unpaid bills carried over from 2011?

2. Multiple jurisdiction, many products. Dewey was an international law firm. Lexis, Westlaw and CCH all have non-US products which separate from the main online product. Lexis has :Lexis Butterworths, (UK)  Juris Classeur (France) and Thomson Reuters offers  Westlaw UK  Sweet & Maxwell, Westlaw China , to name just a few of the non- US products. .I have no idea if Dewey subscribed to these particular products but given their footprint it is likely that there were outstanding bills for non-US content.

2.  Books Anyone? Lexis and Westlaw still publish thousands treatises and monographs. It seems likely that some of the outstanding bills are for print resources. Again - the mystery variable. How many months of unpaid print invoices might be included in the total?

3. Other Online products from Lexis  and Westlaw could include: Lexis Accurint, Lexis Atvantage, Courtlink. ,Westlaw Business,. Westlaw Monitor Suite, West KM. which could all have an unknown number of  monthly  unpaid invoices which are now considered in default.

4. Other non research products? Lexis and Thomson Reuters  each have a host of non-research products which may have been commingled with the research debt. Lexis owns Redwood Analytics and Interaction. Westlaw owns Elite accounting software and Hubbard One marketing platform..Both vendors sell a variety of litigation support products.

5. Wolters Kluwer: Many products, formats and jurisdictions.There is also no simple way to analyse the WK debt. These invoices could also include a variety of domestic and international products in multiple formats including the digital Intelliconnect platforms, Loislaw. Aspen print treatises and the traditional CCH  looseleaf services and annual codes.

Competitive Insights .I applaud the attempts to conduct this analysis, but  we need to approach this with the care we would take on an internal Competitive Intelligence project. We need to stand back and do a thorough "environmental scan" in order to identify the issues and potential data gaps which are critical to constructing this data model. In the weeks and months ahead more facts may be revealed on Dewey's' information resource related debts. But as of today we have insufficient data  with which to formulate an equation which could provide competitive insights into the annual pricing of Dewey's large online research contracts.